Monday, July 9, 2007

Mama and Me

I was sixteen when I got knocked up.

A few weeks into my pregnancy, I went out with my friends, drank a fifth of Hennessey to the head and came stumbling home, drunk. I knew my mama was mad, because I had to climb in through the window in the living room. There she was, sitting on the sofa in her nightgown, her glazed eyes drilling holes into my drunken ass.

I tried to play it cool, but all my alcohol started to kick in and I leaned into the sink vomiting uncontrollably. The Hennessey went all over the dishes that already needed washing. That's when mama lost it.

"What, you think you're grown?" she yelled in her high-pitched voice that even had the roaches in our apartment run for cover. "Coming in all hours of the night, puking in my sink!"

"Some little bird told me that you went and got yourself pregnant," she added. "All over town spreading your legs, like a little street hooker!"

She stood up as she spoke, with her hand on her bony hip, rolling her neck real hard. I stood there breathing heavy, the stale taste of stank alcohol still fresh on my breath. The room was spinning, I wanted to lie down, but I knew mama wasn't having it.

"Yeah, you heard me", she repeated. “Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.”

"How'd you find out," I slurred.

Why I asked, I don't know, because mama could stay in the house all day and still know everything about everyone in our building. She sat at the window puffing on her Newports, swirling her glass of Brandy, round and round until it was empty. That's all she did ever since daddy died.

People say daddy's death killed her spirit.

Sometimes on the weekends her loud friend Loretta will come over and together they'll sit with their heads so far out the window gossiping and talking dirty. I always pretended not to hear, go back to my friends and then we'd gossip too.

When I was younger, she would take me downtown to buy new shoes for school. One year we found some clear blue jellies that sparkled and I couldn't wait to model them in front of my friends. Mama had let me wear them out of the store and we walked hand in hand giggling like two teenage girls.

I leaned my head back trying to block out mama's words. By now I had slunk down by the cabinets in the kitchen onto the floor. The floor was stained yellow in certain places and it left a trail that lead to the dirty mud colored carpet in our box-like living room. Mama had one tiny love seat pushed up against the wall in the corner. The same tiny seat I lost my virginity on when I was fourteen. Legs spread, I had clenched my fists as I stared up at the ceiling praying mama didn't wake up from her coma in the other room. Later that night I had crept to check on her. She laid still. Her petite body was curled up into an awkward lump and she had a tight hold on her empty glass of Brandy.

I shook the memory from my head and came back to the dimly lit room and all its gloom. Unable to remain standing, mama had sunk into the love seat, on her back now, she continued to stick sharp words into my head full of hate and disgust. I looked over at her and rolled my eyes.

"She has a lot of room to talk", I thought to myself. How many nights had I come home to find her laying in her own puddle of vomit, and had to clean up after her before any outside eyes could place their judgment.

I stood up, clumsily knocking over a stack of magazines and newspapers from the kitchen table. I made my way over to the window, and lit up one of mama's Newports. After a few minutes she too stumbled over to the window. I handed her the cigarette and she puffed, blowing smoke out into the night.


There was a cool breeze that blew in from the window and played with our faces. I went to reach for the pack of cigarettes again, but this time mama gently put her hand on mine and shook her head, no. She placed her other hand on my tummy, and I looked up at her.

"I love you mama," I said.

I was surprised at how easy it was for those words to roll off my tongue and out of my mouth.

"I love you too, baby," she replied and she tossed the last of the cigarette out the window into the darkness…